Tips for Effective Independent Practice

Independent practice is a chance to take what you’ve learned in class, and to figure it out. It feels different to dance on your own than it does in class. This is an opportunity to apply the lessons you’ve learned in class, rather than just following instructions with a group.

Teelin recommends that all dancers, regardless of current level, work to establish effective independent practice habits. For dancers who aim to dance at a championship level, effective independent practice outside of class is mandatory.

As a general rule of thumb, there are four parts to a good independent practice:

  1. Warm up and stretch well.
  2. Choose a set of skills to focus on for this practice session and DRILL the details by focusing on
    doing the skills correctly, not by doing unfocused repetitions.
  3. Apply the drills to the specific sequences in your steps.
  4. Cool down and stretch well.

This basic structure allows for a huge range of options. Keep a personal “Practice Journal” so that you can log your sessions and your progress. Bring your journal to class, and have a page for recording comments that you receive from teachers about skills that need some extra work. These notes will help guide your subsequent independent practices.

A common question about independent practice is “How much?” Quality of practice is as important as quantity of practice. There is certainly not a set formula for quantity, but in general, champion dancers should be practicing a minimum of 1-2 hours per day, 4-5 days per week in order to maintain skills. Champions working to advance their skills, and those training for an upcoming competition will practice more than that independently, in addition to classes or private lessons.

Learning how to have a focused and productive independent practice is an important skill to develop. Younger dancers may need some guidance from their parents, but should be encouraged to work towards being able to lead their own practices. If more direction is needed, consider scheduling a private lesson to ask your teacher for specific suggestions to apply during independent practices. Attend as many Extra Classes as possible for feedback on your progress, and consider videotaping your practices to critique yourself and to get feedback from your teachers.

Studio time is available for independent practice with a studio usage fee of $50 per 6-months. More information is available here – http://teelin.com/TSID/logon/studio-calendar/ – which is the Studio Calendar page (password-protected). When you practice at the studio, please mark the Studio Log, which is on a clipboard hanging on the wall in the studio.

Small group practice sessions are an opportunity for dancers to encourage each other, to increase stamina by feeding off of each other’s energy, and to share peer feedback.

Make wise decisions regarding the quality and quantity of your dance practices to avoid injuries. Additionally, complementary activities such as Pilates or yoga are recommended to supplement Irish dance training.

The healthy habit of independent practice is not only a great way to improve your dancing skills, it also develops self-discipline and personal initiative. Continue to nurture your passion, Teelin dancers, and use your time outside of dance class wisely!

A note about music…. If you do not yet have appropriate music for your dance practice at home, a good first purchase is any of the Anton & Sully Volumes 1-5 albums, which are available from iTunes. If you are purchasing only certain tunes from an album, new dancers should start with music for the soft shoe dances: Reels, Light Jigs and Slip Jigs. Dancers practicing in hard shoes will need music for Treble Jigs and Hornpipes. (Note: The first hard shoe steps are traditional speed.)

There are several other very good albums for practice music. If you need suggestions, please ask. Most Irish dance shoe vendors also sell a wide variety of practice CD’s.